Article Launched: 11/15/2008 10:30:42 PM PST
They were gay and straight, married and single, young and old and in between. They brought their kids, their dogs, their lovers and friends, their signs, speeches, guitars and songs.
On Saturday, some 500 demonstrators came to express their anger and disappointment as well as their faith and hope for change at a peaceful rally at San Rafael City Hall, representing Marin in a national day of protest against California's ban on same-sex marriage.
The same thing was happening in small towns and major cities across the country, including San Francisco , New York, Los Angeles and Chicago , as gay rights supporters vented frustrations, celebrated gay relationships and renewed calls to keep on fighting for justice.
In San Rafael, the protesters - outraged over the passage of Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman - gathered on an unseasonably sunny and warm morning to listen to speakers condemn injustice and call for a revived campaign of equality for gay people, including the right to marry.
"We're not married and we're not gay, we just believe all people should have the right to live as they choose," said Susan Bierzychudek of Fairfax, carrying a placard that said "Discrimination is not a family value."
She came to the rally with her partner, Jim Fox, who held aloft a sign that quoted John Lennon's "Imagine": "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."
And he wasn't. On the City Hall steps, on the sidewalk and lawns around the public plaza and standing shoulder-to-shoulder across the street, demonstrators carried signs with such slogans as: "I don't want your acceptance, I want my rights." "How does our love and commitment hurt yours?" "Marriage is a human right, not a heterosexual privilege."
Cars drove slowly and steadily by on Fifth Avenue, most of them honking approval.
Speaking to the crowd, The Rev. Liza Klein, pastor of San Rafael First United Methodist Church, called the gay marriage issue "the civil rights movement of today."
Dave Morey, the popular rock disc jockey who came out on the air after his partner died, was the best known of the speakers. He noted that even though Proposition 8. squeaked by, the gap is narrowing on gay marriage.
"It was close," he said. "With gays and straights together, we can show our strength in numbers. We are going to get there because we are good people. All we want is to be included."
Massachusetts and Connecticut began same sex weddings this past week. They are the only two states that still allow gay marriage. With the passage of Proposition 8, California is one of the 30 states that have voted on gay marriage to enact a ban.
Gary Topper, a retired wine marketer, married Tom Harrington, his partner of 17 years, in a party at their San Anselmo home on the Fourth of July.
Like other gay couples that married while it was still legal, he isn't sure what the outcome will be in the courts.
"Whatever it is, my relationship with Tom is as strong as ever," he said.
Nevertheless, he condemned the Mormon and Catholic churches for leading the well-financed campaign to pass Proposition 8.
"They chose to discriminate even though they voted for Obama," he said. Now that an African American has been elected president, he added, "We have become the excluded group."
In that ironic vein, Mark Hill, attending the rally with his family, said Proposition 8 "totally killed my Obama buzz."
He and his wife, Premila, brought their 8-year-old son, Greg, to the demonstration to instill in him that "In America, we protect rights," he said. "We don't take them away."
The Marin rally came off without incident, and there were no reports of violence Saturday in other cities.
"It's natural for us to feel anger," said rally speaker Jeanne Rizzo, who, with her spouse, Pali Cooper, is one of the plaintiffs in the marriage case that was decided favorably by the California State Supreme Court. "We need to feel that."
But, she said, that anger should be channeled into "the most incredible civil rights movement in the history of the country."
Saturday's rally was organized by Spectrum, Marin's gay advocacy organization.
"We're bringing together a community that has been terribly hurt," said Spectrum's Paula Pilecki, noting that the Proposition 8 fight comes on the 30th anniversary of the murder of legendary gay activist Harvey Milk.
"This is a call to action like we've never seen."
Paul Liberatore can be reached at email@example.com
Visit Flickr to see photos from the event.